He never visited another one afterward. And honestly, I would too.

What made World War II the deadliest war ever in history was not just the death toll on the battlefield but also the tens of thousands of people who underwent concentration camps. Among the most heinous camps to ever exist was established by the Nazi Germans, committing genocide against millions of European Jews and other minorities by detaining them in camps, forcing them to work to death with no proper food, water, and shelter, and who could ever forget the ruthless gas chambers. It was definitely one of the darkest periods in the 21st century.

Following the long, decisive campaign against the German Army between late 1944 and early 1945, the Red Army had finally penetrated through the stronghold defenses of the Nazi Germans, finally freeing major concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Monowitz—where thousands of prisoners awaited not their freedom but death. Most rescued survivors could barely stand up and needed immediate medical attention. What the soldiers captured into their memory that day was a terrifying image one could not simply erase.

‘It Was Horrible’

By the end of spring 1945, more concentration camps were liberated from the cruel hands of the Nazi Germans, including the Ohrdruf Nord near Gotha, Germany, the first Nazi camp break for the United States.

The said camp was part of Buchenwald, which would later be liberated, as well as the entire horrendous encampment. The men of the 602nd Tank Destroyers’ Battalion, the 4th Armored Division, and the 89th Infantry of the Third US Army liberated the camp and were the first at the scene to witness the brutality the Nazis had inflicted on their helpless prisoners.

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Serving as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during the peak of World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower also saw firsthand the ghastly image of decomposing bodies piling at the top of one another, with some being covered in lime while others being partially incinerated on pyres. Before the visit, these generals didn’t know that such brutality was happening in the camp, shocking the five-star General and everyone who entered the site.

A week after the American troops liberated the camp, Eisenhower, along with Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley, visited Ohrdruf to assess the hell hole themselves. The image struck the Generals, particularly Eisenhower, who wanted the world to know about the inhumane treatment and mass atrocities within the concentration camps. Three days after his visit, the five-star General penned home about his experience, saying he “never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world! It was horrible.”

He also wrote to General George C. Marshall, the then-head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, remarking what he saw at the camp was beyond words: “The things I saw beggar description. … The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty, and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick.”